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Diabetic? Even a Little Exercise Could Help!

With 1.6 million Americans diagnosed per year, diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions. A recent study from McMaster University in Canada shows that brief, high intensity workouts may help lower blood sugar levels for type 2 diabetics, even if it won't help with weight loss.

The findings were published in the December 2011 issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.

The participant group was small, including 8 diabetic patients. The researchers gave a baseline exam at the onset of the study to record blood sugar levels over one 24 hour period. They also assessed fitness levels and took biopsies of thigh muscle to measure proteins.

Participants then participated in a daily brief, high intensity workout on a stationary bike. The 25 minute workout consisted of a warm up at the start of the exercise, a cool down at the end, and one minute rest between ten high intensity 60 second sessions. This routine was followed for one week.

The researchers noted lower 24-hour blood sugar, reduced blood sugar spikes after the participants ate, and increased skeletal muscle mitochondrial capacity, which is a marker of metabolic health.

While the researchers wanted it to be clear that this was a small, preliminary study and therefore more research is needed to determine the exact effect of brief exercise on diabetics, they also pointed out that this could be a good step toward getting people to exercise. Many people have trouble finding the time to exercise, making studies like this important because it shows that even a little exercise can have a serious effect.

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